The Visit Review by Jeff Doan
Movie rating (3 out of 5)
Blair Witch in 1999 first set the bar for the 1st person hand held camera within the horror genre. Since then the trend has been growing within the industry giving us more POV movies like the recent Paranormal Activity series. With a horror movie premise as simple as going to visit one’s grandparents I was unsure how well filming a movie in this style could play out on screen. While I had my doubts I was consoled with the fact that this was no ordinary “found footage”, or a “1st person” style film due to its writer and director. M Nigh Shyamalan has given us hits such as The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village, and The Happening. With a hit list like that I knew I had something to look forward to, and that if it followed the same formula as his other movies there would be a deep rooted twist.
Our premise is that Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxnbould) have set out to meet and stay with their grandparents for their first time while their mother is away on a cruise. Becca and Tyler have never met their grandparents before due to their grandparent’s history of conflict with their mother. Becca and Tyler’s father convinced their mother to elope with him at a young age causing their grandparents to loose contact with their mother. Years later Becca and Tyler’s father walks out on the family relieving the tension between the disapproving grandparents and their mother. This off screen resolution between the mother and grandparents creates a want to finally meet their grandchildren. The Children decide to film their experience with their grandparent’s in a documentary style format in an attempt to convince their mother to rekindle the relationship with her parents. Becca and Tyler are sent to a remote country town by train to visit their grandparents, upon arriving at the train station they are greeted by Nana (Deanna Dungan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) a charming couple. Over the course of the next week while filming the children begin to notice strange and shocking behaviors from their grandparents.
This movie deeply plays upon Xenophobia or “fear of strangers”. Certain social phobias such as fear of strangers are innately programed within us to help protect us when we are most vulnerable. At a young age we are taught that even family members who we don’t know are there to protect us because we are related by blood. This film challenges this perspective while playing on something we can all relate to, “Going to Grandma’s”. While at the box office the movie made 25.6 million its opening weekend the film overall did not do very well in theaters and most critics gave it rather low ratings.
What they did well:
The film played very well on tension, in comparison to a lot of more recent films which are in your face, the director plays upon what is going on inside your head. A notable scene, which is displayed prominently within the trailer involves Becca climbing in Nana’s oven to clean it. A scene which most of us have heard of previously in the tale of Hansel and Gretel. While in Hansel in Gretel we know the outcome involves the witch being pushed inside the oven, with the oven being bolted shut with the witch’s demise as she is incinerated. In this film the role is reversed with Becca in the oven, although we are on the edge of our seat waiting for Nana to shut her in the oven the anticipation builds but we are never given the outcome we expect. This scene occurs twice within the movie and even when Becca is shut inside the oven, Nana wipes the front of the oven clean only to let her out moments later. Scenes like this are scattered throughout the movie causing the viewer to relinquish control to the director. Anytime the viewer feels that they know what is going to happen next, the viewer is always confronted with an alternate route within the film.
What they did not do well:
There are 2 large plot holes that are never filled within the film. The first is how do the grandchildren not know what their grandparents look like? Although we are given the precursor to the film of why the kids have never met their grandparents, it is never explained how they wouldn’t know what their grandparents look like. With Becca being a highly inquisitive protagonist attempting to make a documentary about meeting her grandparents it seems highly unlikely that she has never come across a picture of her grandparents or researched anything about them online prior to meeting them.
Our next big hole in the plot is the kids utilizing Skype to speak with their mother over a lap top. This is utilized throughout the movie as the kids described the strange occurrences with their grandparents to their mother. Not only is it hard to believe that an old farm house would have internet, specifically a readily available Ethernet cable, but also that Nana and Pop Pop would have a use for the internet especially with the lack of technology within the house. As Nana and Pop Pop put it in the beginning of the movie, “they’re old” so they go to bed early, specifically 9:30 and don’t have a want or need for electronics.
These two large details aside the movie is overall very good. I enjoyed the tension displayed on the screen and felt every turn as I tried to solve the films strange occurrences. While I don’t feel that the “first person” film style was necessary I do feel it added to the film allowing for several pop up scares. Although the film is not at the same level as some of . M Nigh Shyamalan’s predecessor’s I still feel it is a film worth viewing. Overall I give the movie a 3 out of 5 because it was entertaining and suspenseful, even with some of the large plot holes I personally had trouble with.